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Kicking medical research into an even higher gear at The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus

Dr Stewart
Photo of Dr. Duncan Stewart provided by The Ottawa Hospital.

Dr. Duncan Stewart is passionate about medical research. But the executive vice-president of research at The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) is also a trained cardiologist who has worked in plenty of clinical settings during his nearly four-decade medical career.

He says there is a big difference between clinical practice and research. Clinical practice is limited to what treatments are available now, but research is all about what might be possible in the future. “As a practitioner, a physician, it’s all evidence-based medicine,” he explains. “You need good evidence to support your clinical decisions and there is little room for creativity.”

“And that is frustrating when we are trying to help patients for whom there are no proven therapeutic options because you lack that ability to be creative, to think out of the box and say, ‘If we only did this, what would happen?” This can only be done through research.

Dr. Stewart says the marriage of cutting-edge research and robust clinical care is what makes a truly world-class health facility. And that’s exactly what will happen at TOH’s planned new Campus.

TOH is already known as one of the country’s top research hospitals, with 48 active patent families, collaborations in 151 countries, and nine spin-off companies. That’s thanks, in part, to a uniquely collaborative approach that is all about the patient – creating translational research teams including clinicians and scientists to tackle some of the most challenging problems in medicine. There are 714 active clinical trials, 2,208 researchers, and 2,155 scientific papers published per year.

TOH is aiming to be one of the world’s leading research hospitals, on par with Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Stewart says the new campus will create state-of-the-art facilities with even closer interaction between researchers and clinicians to bring tomorrow’s therapies to our patients today.

“The real advantage of this partnership is that the research that we do will address the issues that are most important from a patient perspective,” he explains, naming TOH’s growing biomanufacturing and CAR T-cell therapy programs as evidence of the hospital’s current research excellence – and its future potential.

He says new facilities at the upcoming Campus – including the planned neuroscience institute – will help advance the hospital’s strategy of embedding research with clinical care, and will give our researchers more modern tools and even better integration with clinical settings to develop cutting-edge therapies.

Dr. Stewart – who was recruited to lead TOH’s Research Institute in 2007 after stops at McGill University, St. Michael’s Hospital, and the University of Toronto along the way – is no stranger to world-class research.

He’s made important discoveries in blood vessel biology, spearheaded the world’s first clinical trial of a gene-enhanced cell therapy for pulmonary hypertension, launched the first enhanced progenitor cell therapy trial for post heart attack repair, and has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts.

But his research background is just one reason why he’s so bullish on the future of healthcare in Ottawa.

“As a physician, I see first-hand the challenges our patients are facing, and I know when we don’t have the right tools or knowledge,” he says. “Back in the lab, we are constantly developing novel approaches and our patients at TOH will be first in line to benefit when these new therapies are available.”